Gifted kids need funding, too

Ardynne Sprinkle is the president of the Nevada Association for the Gifted and Talented.

Are we throwing away our brightest and best students? Are we failing to provide them with opportunities to reach their potential, to aspire to achievement and creativity far beyond that which is expected of most children? Are we leaving them behind? It would seem so.

At the state level, Assembly Bill 416 seeks to limit the definition of “exceptional children” only to those who are labeled “children with disabilities.” The effect of this could place a very real burden on school districts throughout the state. If AB 416 is approved by the Legislature, school districts throughout Nevada will have to fully fund the salaries of all teachers of gifted and talented programs. Nevada law, in place since the late 1980s, has allowed school districts to pay 60 percent of a gifted and talented teacher’s salary by using a limited amount of the state and federal funds provided for special education.

Since its inception, gifted education, at both the state and national levels, has been under the umbrella of special education, providing curriculum opportunities for our most able learners. Just as students with disabilities need extra attention and services, our gifted students require differentiated instruction in order to fully progress. But the amount of money we spend on our most able students is minute compared to the amount spent on every exceptional disabled child in a special ed classroom or, for example, a deaf child.

It is obvious that children with disabilities need extraordinary attention and resources to help them. It seems unfair, however, that the gifted child, equally exceptional under the law, wouldn’t get the financial support he or she needs to reach his or her potential. Across the United States, out of every $100 spent on education, only two cents is spent to provide for the educational needs of our most able learners. In Nevada, that is a high estimate.

When one considers that our individual well-being, as well as our country’s prosperity and growth, is going to depend on the accomplishments of these students—our future leaders, diplomats, innovators and inventors, composers and poets—we are being very short-sighted by not nurturing and promoting development of their gifts and talents. Please contact your state legislators and tell them you oppose AB 416.

On the national front, tell Sens. Harry Reid and John Ensign that you would like them to support Senate Bill 421, and thank Rep. Shelley Berkley in Clark County for co-sponsoring House Resolution 490. Also, request that Rep. Jim Gibbons support and co-sponsor HR 490. If passed, these bills would provide money for programs here in Nevada to be used for the education of gifted students in every corner of our state.

When gifted children are encouraged to achieve, we all reap the benefits.